Close
Saved Anthologies

Foreign Affairs Anthology Series

Best International Relations Books of 2013

Subscribe

All anthologies are free when you subscribe

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

In This Review

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (Liberation Trilogy)
By Rick Atkinson
Henry Holt and Co., 2013
896 pp. $40.00
Purchase

With The Guns at Last Light, Atkinson concludes his celebrated trilogy on World War II. The first two volumes covered the Allied campaigns in North Africa and Italy. In this one, Atkinson is on more familiar territory: the buildup to the Normandy landings and the drive to Berlin, with its frustrating setbacks. Most of his readers will know this story. Yet Atkinson still manages to keep it fresh, with a talent for narrative and a mastery of detail that make this book one of the great contributions to the war’s history. He has an impressive command of the high-level strategic debates, coalition politics, and logistical feats that shaped the war, and he brings them to life with the accumulation of small details: U.S. General George Patton’s exuberance at the prospect of battle, the inventory of personal effects found on corpses, the U.S. decision to excuse American soldiers who shot captured SS guards in cold blood at the concentration camp in Dachau, the bedbugs and caviar at the Yalta conference.

Atkinson also describes the sexual temptations that greeted American GIs in France and the dire consequences in terms of prostitution and venereal disease. Roberts zeroes in on this aspect of the war in a remarkable study that complicates the view of the liberation of France and casts doubt on the moral character of the vaunted “greatest generation” of Americans. She vividly depicts the impact of the influx of hundreds of thousands of GIs on French society, especially on French women. One of the book’s most troubling revelations is the way that U.S. authorities wrongly blamed the rapes of French women on African American soldiers. Roberts demonstrates how officials excused appalling conduct by referring to the stereotype of the licentious French woman -- blaming victims for the sexual assaults they suffered. The book is marred by a tendency to overgeneralize and to overinterpret observations gleaned from letters and diaries. Nonetheless, it is a powerful reminder of the dark side of the liberation.

Enjoy more high quality articles like this one.

Become a Subscriber

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles posted daily online and almost a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now

More Reviews on Military, Scientific, and Technological From This Issue

Browse All Capsule Reviews

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

Continue